Somaliland: The Contribution of Pastoralists to Resilient Food Systems is Still Too Little Appreciated and Promoted

Somaliland: The Contribution of Pastoralists to Resilient Food Systems is Still Too Little Appreciated and Promoted
The home of the Awleed family in Somaliland. Weather extremes such as long periods of drought take the existence of families who live from animal husbandry. © Welthungerhilfe

Somalilandsun: Abdilahi Ali Kahin only owns a few sheep and goats. The 43-year-old lives in Lama-Looshka in Somaliland and is an “agro-pastoralist”, which means he practices a traditional form of farming that combines agriculture and livestock farming on natural pastures. He has seen many changes on his pasture land in recent years: deforestation, soil erosion and recurring droughts. That threatens his livelihood.

Millions of people are like him. The number and severity of political crises and natural disasters, also as a result of climate change, has increased significantly worldwide over the past few decades, and poorer countries and sections of the population in particular are affected to an above-average extent and frequently. In order to cope with multiple and overlapping crises, the concept of resilience (from Latin resiliere, “to jump back, bounce off”) has been adapted to the context of development cooperation .

Welthungerhilfe defines resilience as the ability of people, communities or institutions to recover quickly from extreme stress and to develop strategies to deal with recurring challenges. It works on two levels: combating the causes and strengthening the resilience of the affected population. This is done through projects on early warning systems, food security and rural development, for example.

In Somaliland, the farming and shepherd families are reforesting land together with Welthungerhilfe and creating protection zones against the overexploitation of charcoal. The precious rain is “harvested” using simple methods: earth or stone walls are piled up along the contour lines. As a result, the land is gradually becoming terraced and more water can seep away instead of draining away unused. The pastures stay green longer, the shallow wells in the area provide water longer in the year and fodder trees for goats and camels flourish faster.

This is also the case with Abdilahi Ali Kahin. Together with his community, he has designated part of his land for a protected area according to the international principles of participatory forest and pasture management (PFM). “We decided to fence in a fairly large piece of land; this land is our land, no one will take it away from us except erosion. That is why we have provided the degraded hills and the deep gullies with stone walls. It will have to rest for some time so that the grass, bushes and trees can fully recover. “

Without “governance”, ie rules for dealing with these areas, it does not work. They developed community statutes, including penalties for those who break the rules. A management team was also elected. Welthungerhilfe contributed tools, specialist knowledge and wages, the community made its own contribution through construction work and the permanent protection of the area.

Tomato harvest in Baki, Somaliland. A pastoral family works and irrigates fields. © Welthungerhilfe

Abdilahi Ali Kahin looks back: “The concept was new to our church, so there were some church members who believed they were going to lose their land for their cattle. For others, it was the loss of quick charcoal income. But nowadays their thinking changed when they saw the country change. It has become a productive area again, the pasture is growing, and we can harvest crops for forage and naturopathy. Some of the already extinct plants that we knew as children also came back. There are many more flowers in the sanctuary than anywhere else. And our income grows with the well-fed sheep, goats and camels. Most likely, the concept will spread to the neighboring communities. “

What knowledge can bring about is also shown in the plant Prosopis. Decades ago it was brought to Africa from South America to stop desertification. Without knowing how to use it, the fast-growing plant threatens to overgrow pastures and fields. Welthungerhilfe has found a solution with the shepherd and farmer families: Prosopis can be used to make animal feed, protein-rich food, fertilizer, charcoal and much more if it is properly processed. Knowledge is one of the most effective tools for being strong and resilient in dealing with extreme stress.

When combating the causes, the political framework conditions must be taken into account. Pastoralists and their way of life are often given too little attention in politics and development cooperation. In Germany they are most likely to be associated with the romantic image of shepherds. The importance of shepherds is underestimated around the world. A few facts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).

But the picture is changing. Grazing areas and pastoralism are receiving increasing attention in the debate about environmental and climate protection. Cattle breeding is generally regarded as a “climate killer”. But a study in Senegal, for example, came to the conclusion that pastoral systems have a neutral climate balance: the methane emissions caused by animals are offset by carbon dioxide binding in the soil and in plants .

Two fifths of the earth are arid zones, unsuitable for growing crops. But nomadic peoples can survive in the high valleys, savannas and steppes thanks to their mobile way of life. It is estimated that there are between 200 and 500 million pastoralists worldwide; in sub-Saharan Africa, 16 percent of the population live as migrant cattle herders, in some countries they make up the majority of the population. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), pastoralism is an effective way to use sparse vegetation and low fertility of dry soils, while preserving biodiversity, the ecosystem and resilience. “

Protect precious soil. Resistant plants and great care when growing are required on hard soils. © Welthungerhilfe

Nonetheless, pastoralists are still exposed to a variety of pressures, their way of life is not recognized and supported in politics, the legal system, the economy and in society. They need infrastructure and regulations that are adapted to their way of life, for example for their livestock and their hiking areas. Their animal breeds were bred over many generations, they are insensitive, tough and adapted to the climate. However, veterinary services or new breeder knowledge are required. Pastoralists also no longer live like a hundred years ago, they are networked, use modern technology, have satellite and cell phones, and check weather apps and market information.

The most important prerequisite for making your food system resilient is that your contribution to social, environmental, climate protection and the economy is recognized and that you have a voice and voice in the relevant political processes at national and international level. Development plans of agriculture and other ministries must be checked to ensure that they meet the specific requirements of pastoralists, that there are adequately funded programs, and that they receive protection from the legal system and the state in order to defend themselves against threats and exploitation of their areas. Orientation can be provided by publications tailored to the administration of pastoral areas, such as the FAO .

A shepherd family in Somaliland. The dwarf state has lost around 60 percent of its tree population. The dried out soil is eroding. © Welthungerhilfe

Ethiopia is also a country in which pastoralists play an important role, they live on more than half of the country’s area. The Ethiopian Constitution of 1995 guarantees pastoralists the right to free grazing, the use of natural resources, market access, fair prices and secure land rights. The government has also adopted a national strategy for the development of pastoral areas. But these are at odds with other policies .

Youseph Negassa from the Ethiopian non-governmental organization “Action for Development” criticizes: “The government has developed some programs, for example local irrigation systems. The pastoralists’ contribution to the local economy is not recognized enough. Instead, preference is given to arable production. In particular, large-scale investment projects deprive them of land and water, and conflicts arise again and again. ”Negassa sees potential for synergies if trade relationships between pastoralists, farmers and investors are established, knowledge exchange is promoted, and they receive a share in the investments in order to to benefit from it so directly.

Experts like Fiona Flintan from the “International Livestock Research Institute” emphasize the need for participatory land use planning and community development so that the necessary steps for a resilient food system and an intact environment can be created together with the pastoralist communities. (Quota is still being voted on)

If pastoralists do not receive the recognition and attention they need, the world will lose much of its land, water, vegetation and carbon storage basins. They conserve resources that the world urgently needs to feed millions of people and to overcome the climate crisis. sourced from Welthungerhilfe

Portrait: Marion Aberle, Team Policy & External Relations.
Authored jointly by Marion AberleWelthungerhilfe, Team Policy & External Relations All articles by Marion Aberle 
Display picture_Thomas_Hoerzand Thomas HoerzProgram Manager SomalilandAll